After almost a month of operating together in-company, HMAS Broome, on 15 October, parted company with four Pacific Patrol Boats visiting Australia for the International Fleet Review 2013 and ExerciseTriton Centenary.
Federated States of Micronesia patrol boat, FSS Micronesia, Tonga Defence Service, Voea Savea and Papua New Guinea Navy boats HMPNGS Rabaul and Dreger joined HMAS Broome in Cairns on 19 September and formed the Minor War Vessels Surface Action Group.
Commanding Officer of HMAS Broome, Commander Melanie Verho led the group and said the passage to and from the International Fleet Review provided a number of valuable training opportunities.
“While sailing up and down the east Australia coastline, we conducted a number of exercises with the Pacific Patrol Boats, including close-in-company manouveres and passage exercises. In-company time is essential for big and small ships alike, and has improved our ability to work together into the future,” Commander Verho said.
It was not all smooth sailing for the small ships as they encountered heavy seas during the transit, however, Commander Verho says each boat made the most of the experience.
“A number of personnel cross-decked during the transit, which provided them with a chance to see first hand how other Navies live and operate.”
The proficiency of each of the ships was also enhanced during their participation in the two-part Exercise Triton Centenary. During the exercise, the Minor War Vessels conducted ship handling, man over board drills and boat drills.
Commander Verho said this is one of the longest periods of sustained activity between the Royal Australian Navy and Pacific Island navies, and has significantly enhanced their ability to work together.
“It has been a privilege working with the Pacific nations throughout the last month. They are highly skilled and professional mariners and their commitment to both Triton Centenary and the International Fleet Review has been outstanding.
“The time we spent operating with the Pacific Patrol Boats of Micronesia, Tonga and Papua New Guinea has gone a long way to building habits of cooperation and understanding. This ability to work together is vital for maritime security and stability in the region,” Commander Verho said.
The 31.5 metre Pacific Patrol Boats will shortly return to their home nations. The boats were gifted by the Australian Government as part of the Pacific Patrol Boat program and are used for maritime surveillance, including fisheries patrols, national building activities and search and rescue.
Press Release, October 18, 2013; Image: Australian Navy